A Twelve Step Program for the Recovery of New Orleans
A plan of action (a blueprint or a roadmap, if you prefer) is needed for New Orleans’ recovery from the effects of Katrina. No one else seems to have a real long-term plan so I thought I would take a shot. I promise in this plan, unlike the plans proposed by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, to not say “The plan is to create a plan for….” Some of these concepts are not much fun, but the seriousness of the situation calls for drastic changes in the way New Orleans works. Also, because Katrina is driving me to drink (more than usual), I thought a twelve step program for recovery would be the most appropriate way to lay out this plan of action.
1. Accept that life in New Orleans will never be the same again. We need to hold on to everything that we can from our past lives but we also must look and move forward.
2. Dissolve the levee boards and turn over control of levee planning to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Create a Coastal Protection Division within LDNR to accomplish flood protection and allow them to integrate coastal protection concepts with coastal restoration and coastal management. Remember, improved flood control and storm protection for New Orleans will be a slow process. And it should be slow – many options are available to achieve the same goal and the public deserves (and should demand) to carefully review each and every plan proposed.
3. Identify all aspects of New Orleans that makes it culturally and economically viable and unique and prioritize them for rebuilding and protection. Ask the question: what makes New Orleans New Orleans? Protect and covet everything that answers that question and quit worrying about those things that don’t.
4. Implement legislation to put into place the Louisiana Recovery Corporation as proposed by Congressman Richard Baker, or something similar. Although not a perfect piece of legislation, this bill will protect Louisiana property owners from default on existing mortgages and give Louisiana citizens the first right of refusal to come back and rebuild their homes and businesses.
5. Create a southeast Louisiana regional planning authority that has the goals of integrating southeast Louisiana communities to work together instead of competing with one another. New Orleans needs to be the cultural and economic anchor for southeast Louisiana, but New Orleans should focus future growth in areas not well served by other communities in the region.
6. Try not to be bitter towards out-of-state contractors and laborers. Remember they are ignorant about New Orleans culture, history and lifestyles and they are going to be with us for a long time. Instead use this as an opportunity to educate them about New Orleans and its history and why it is such a special place. Enthusiasm is contagious so it is important to be enthusiastic when telling outsiders about all of the great things the city has to offer (even post-Katrina). They may be out-of–state contractors today but they might become tourists or residents in the future.
7. Start returning all possible aspects of normalcy to the city immediately. Dump the curfew, stop the late night military checkpoints, and enforce parking regulations and traffic violations. This is not the image New Orleans wants to portray to residents and guests, and curfews and checkpoints smack of racism and racial profiling.
8. Integrate low income housing into neighborhood rebuilding. No projects or apartment-like low income housing should be used in the future. Everyone, including those in poverty, deserves a decent place to live in a safe neighborhood. This can only be achieved by having the vision to mix low income housing in with market rate housing throughout the city during the rebuilding process. The goal should be to have an equivalent number of low income units following buildout as were available before Katrina. The number of units should be the same as pre-Katrina, just the location and configuration of the housing should change.
9. Implement tax incentives for businesses to relocate to New Orleans. Tax incentives are especially important in attracting small businesses. Don’t be concerned about the loss of tax revenue for the city and state from these tax incentives in the short-term – most of the city’s revenue streams are non-existent in the short-term anyway. We need to focus on long-term economic development and job growth.
10. Education, education, education. It is time to rebuild the Orleans Parish public schools into the best urban school system in the United States. A quality public education system is the key to attracting people and businesses to New Orleans and is vital to boosting our current low income residents out of poverty. It also will cure all of the ills of urban sprawl as people demand to move back into New Orleans to get the best free education in the state of Louisiana. Priority funding for the city from all sources goes to rebuilding schools, paying teachers the highest salaries in the state and providing the best supplies, books, and facilities available. If the public school system is the best there is, people will be climbing over each other to rebuild homes and relocate businesses in New Orleans.
11. Clean up the politics of the city. Although corruption and graft are part of the culture of New Orleans, the city must clean up its political act in order to attract viable businesses. The mayor’s office must insure every potential business owner or CEO that corruption and graft will never again be tolerated. All business transactions need to be transparent and businesses compete on a level playing field.
12. Use the power of eminent domain to take all of Tom Benson’s property in the New Orleans metro area and use that property to build housing for Katrina refugees that were displaced to San Antonio. Although this would only provide a very minor boost to the housing problem in New Orleans, it would go a long way towards improving morale locally and would make me feel better personally.